Slavery in Texas : The Portal

The Portal to Texas History is an online database that contains approximately 792,382 items from Texas history. The Portal to Texas History was created and is maintained by the University of North Texas Libraries' Digital Projects Unit. The Portal is mainly a collection of Texas print culture, ranging from newspapers to legal documents and more. Within the Portal are a number of primary source documents that relate to the topic of slavery in Texas from the 1790s through the end of the Civil War. Before examining the sources in the Portal that pertain to slavery, a discussion of how to find these materials will be done.

First steps

Go to From here, users will find a number of tabs and pages that can be opened to begin exploring the Portal. The main way in which material is searched for in the Portal is through the sites search engine. The search bar allows users to make general searches, as well as much more pin-pointed searches. Before making a search, users should take the "tour" of the Portal to familiarize themselves with what the Portal's contain, and how to search within it. To take the tour, click the "Take a Tour" button or go to this link

Once you have taken the digital tour and gone through some sample searches, users are now ready to begin searches for content on slavery in the Portal.

Searching for Slavery Content

To search for content on slavery in the Portal, knowing what keywords trigger the most results is important. Users will not find many results on slavery by searching "African-American slaves," or even "black slave" Users must use the vernacular of the time period in searching for slave content. By searching with the keyword "slavery" users will find thousands of hits, and these results can be narrowed by limiting results to those before 1865 (the end of slavery). Other useful search terms are "negro" or "negroes." These keywords will bring up any content in the Portal that contains those keywords, whether it be a newspaper or a bill of sale. Searching "Runaway" is also another useful keyword search, especially when looking for newspaper advertisements about runaway slaves.

Another way in which users can find primary documents on slavery is by searching "Social Life and Customs- Slavery." This will bring up hundreds of primary documents on slavery, including: bills of sale, legal documents, letters, and more.

It is important to remember that when searching for any content about slavery during the antebellum period, to filter the search to only include results from before 1865.